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August 2004

Ohio Landfills are Low Rent for Out-of-State Trash Importers

Ohio ships about a million tons of trash each year, and imports another 2.5 million from 28 states, according to a report in the May 30, 2004, issue of the Columbus Dispatch.

But Ohio is an even bigger importer of construction and demolition debris, taking in more than 2.8 million tons in 2003.

Ohio moved from 17th on the list of trash importing states in 1997 to #5 in 2001, when the state imported just over one million tons of trash. The combined figure for solid waste and demolition debris imported in 2003 was over five times that amount.

Ohio is a magnet for out-of-state waste because disposal fees are lower than eastern states and landfill space is plentiful. Ohio is particularly attractive for construction and demolition debris (C&DD) because disposal fees for such material are even lower, thanks in part to looser environmental regulations governing C&DD disposal sites.

“They are the low-rent, high-risk landfills of Ohio,” said Jack Shaner, spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Commission.

Paul Ruesch, a U.S. EPA investigator, said C&DD landfills can easily be abused by haulers who mix solid waste into the demolition debris to avoid the higher tipping fees at solid waste landfills.

And even demolition debris can be harmful, he said. Wet drywall can give off hydrogen-sulfide gas, which can cause eye irritation, sore throats, shortness of breath and fluid in the lungs. Decomposition in C&DD landfills can also touch off underground fires.

Even identifying a landfill as the source of such public health hazards makes little impact, according to the story by Dispatch reporter Spencer Hunt.

Federal officials declared an “urgent health hazard” in the area around the Warren Hills C&DD landfill in Stark County in 2003, after it was discovered that the intense rotten-egg smell afflicting nearby homeowners was caused by hydrogen-sulfide gas seeping from the site.

“Even as the state prepares to take Warren Hills to court for a second time, the landfill continues to accept more debris,” Hunt wrote.

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